Powerful techniques are being developed for evaluating rheumatoid arthritis with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Much of this development is being driven by the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries searching for novel therapies for this disease. Accordingly, the imaging tools that ultimately will be used to direct patients to specific therapies and then to monitor treatment effectiveness and safety are currently being refined and validated in rigorous multicenter and multinational clinical trials aimed at gaining regulatory approval of these new therapies. As these trials approach completion, rheumatologists can anticipate an increased demand for expertise and experience in evaluating disease progression and treatment response with these techniques and the emergence of MRI systems specifically designed for this market. The following discussion reviews this novel pathway for evolving imaging techniques for clinical use through clinical drug trials, lists the most promising MRI markers available today for evaluating joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis, and speculates on how these techniques will find their way into clinical practice.
Copyright 2001 by W.B. Saunders Company